A tribute to comedy’s unsung heroes
Scott Bennett puts the spotlight on his behind-the-scenes supporters
When I first started stand-up people would often ask me if it was a hobby. At the time I couldn’t answer them. Now if feel I am more qualified to answer this question. Baking cakes is a hobby, playing golf once a week is a hobby, driving to Glasgow on a wet Wednesday night to perform to eight people at Bobby Wingnuts Cackle Dungeon, isn’t a hobby, it’s probably an illness.
Interestingly they never ask me how I do stand-up comedy, which would be a more revealing question. Much is said of the stand-up comedian, but the people behind the scenes often don’t get the credit they deserve. I’m not referring to agents, managers or producers; I’m talking about the unseen victims of comedy, the ones we leave behind to hold the fort and the ones who have to keep our fragile egos buoyant after a terrible gig in Glasgow. The sacrifices these poor men and women make are part of the reason we are able to get up on stage and show off for twenty minutes each weekend. I’m speaking of course about the silent partner in the double act and in my case it’s my wife Jemma.
I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.
When we met 19 years ago I didn’t do stand-up. We met at university, got married, had our first child and both embarked on proper careers, hers as a teacher and myself as a product designer. We both shared a mutual love for comedy. I knew she was the one for me when we both declared our obsession with Alan Partridge, her knowledge was remarkable, we would forensically analyse it for hours, like two tragic comedy geeks, it was marvellous. I still do it now, reciting bits of comedy, I’m weird like that, but often I’ll be told “not now love, can you take the bins out” things have inevitability moved on. As students would often sneak back home early on nights out, many people assumed this was due to unbridled lust, in reality though it’s because we fancied some toast and to listen to On the Hour.
I came to comedy quite late and although things are going well, it would have been much easier to have done it when I was in my early 20’s and living in my parents’ house, but I had nothing much to say when I was that age and certainly didn’t feel confident enough to know how to say it. Now, being married and having a family life is a sure fire way to create material. An expensive and stressful way perhaps, but it’s effective. Although, failing that, you can probably get away with people watching on the back of the night bus with a notepad; you could probably unearth some comedy gold without all that extra responsibility.
It’s always unusual getting back home in the early hours of the morning when all the family is in bed and the house is silent. I like my little routine, the bowl of cereal at 2am and back to back couples who kill on the investigation channel; marvellous. I then have to sneak into the bedroom and try to find my way to my side of the bed using only the digits of my radio alarm clock as a rudimentary landing strip. My wife rarely stirs. I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.
I’m very lucky in that my wife has not given me an ultimatum, which does often happen to some comedians in marriages, but there have been times when the bank of goodwill has been low on credit, especially with the arrival of our second child this February. I have to always remind myself that Jemma didn’t tick the WAC box on the marriage form (wife of a comedian) and I’m dragging her along on this venture, but the support she gives me had been unwavering and I will forever be in debt to her for that. We are getting used to a different lifestyle as a family. We are learning how to make it work. Twice now have all gone up to the fringe together, once staying in a flat and last year spending the month in a static caravan. We could have probably gone to Disneyland for the same price and I was probably one of the only comics whose fringe experience closely resembled that of Alan Partridge, but it was great having them with me.
My six year old daughter has had some very cool fringe experiences; it’s the perk of having a dad who does comedy. When she returned to school after the summer break last year she had to draw a picture of something she did during the holidays. She proudly handed in a picture of her onstage with the Funz and Gamez crew, (her teacher corrected the spelling) she has met Bonzo the dog and Jim the elf, smashed an egg over her dads head and had a brutal staring competition with Phil Ellis; she still talks about it to this day..
I don’t know what the future holds for me in comedy, there are no guarantees. What I do know though is that if I am ever fortunate enough to have some success in comedy, it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifices made by my family waiting back at home.
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